Subscribe to receive the F-Word on your device!
When French protestors hit the streets in opposition to their President Macron, the Wall Street Journal called it a Global Carbon Tax Revolt, and sounded broadly sympathetic.
“Nothing reveals the disconnect between ordinary voters and an aloof political class more than carbon taxation,” wrote the editors.
Rupert Murdoch’s Journal wasn’t the only money media to find in the French a protest movement to get excited about.
Especially when those actions turned violent, the very same US media that are loathe to cover protests here, and that are beyond skimpy in their reporting of everywhere else, were all over the so called yellow vest rebellion. And no wonder—along with the close-ups on the graffiti at the Arc de Triomphe and the burning cars on the Champs Elysee, the reporters were able to tot up the damage to people and property and the French Presidency for taking action on climate change, and to make their real point: namely the lessons for Democrats.
“France ‘yellow vest’ protests should be a lesson for green activists in the US,” Fox News declared bluntly. Better think twice, they and others intoned, before acting on climate demands if you’re the leadership of the new House.
There's just one problem. The French protests are complicated. "The enemy here isn’t climate policy, it’s neoliberalism," wrote Kate Aronoff in Jacobin. By many accounts, Macron's paying the price not so much for taxing carbon as for ignoring inequality and passing tax breaks for the rich while pushing more austerity on people already at breaking point.
As for carbon taxes, what American Green New Deal activists want aren't carbon taxes—an idea that really came from the Right. They want investment in public infrastructure and a staged phase-out of fossil fuel along with a fast phase-in of green jobs.
Conveniently enough, thousands of young Green New Deal activists were flooding Congress just as the French protests were reaching their climax. But getting the facts from them about their demands wouldn't have been as convenient. And it would have required not just talking about, but talking to actual protestors. On both sides of the Atlantic.